Persona 5 Royal – Michael Higham's Most Anticipated Game Of 2020

2020 is almost here, so we’ve asked GameSpot’s staff to share which games they’re looking forward to most in the new year. New consoles are going to dominate the headlines, but at the end of the day it’s all about the games, and there are a ton of exciting ones to look forward to. When you’re done reading this entry, follow along with all of our other end-of-the-year coverage collected in our Best of 2019 hub and our Most Anticipated of 2020 hub.

A lot has changed for me since 2017, a year where I was still navigating a new job in a new city and establishing a foothold in a career I never thought I’d have. It was an intimidating time as I was just getting off of square one, rebuilding my own real life social links, too. And alongside me was Persona 5. I found so much comfort in the daily routine of the game, spending time with characters I grew to love, fighting for a cause that I could believe in with a badass soundtrack all the way through. As soon as the credits rolled, I had that rare feeling of knowing that I played one of my favorite games of all time.

Now imagine if a denser, definitive version of your favorite game–with a reimagined storyline, new characters, and even more flash and flare–was on the horizon? That’s Persona 5 Royal. I’ve been following P5R since it was announced for Japan and leading up to its release earlier this year, and with every bit of information revealed was more hype. Admittedly, I had to lay off at a certain point and retain some element of surprise for when it comes westward in March.

It’s easy to spot this pattern with developer Atlus considering Persona 3 FES and Persona 4 Golden were both definitive versions that followed their base game. P5R is bringing even more to the table, though. The new Phantom Thief, Kasumi Yoshizawa, isn’t just another party member to shake up the dynamic–she’s central to the core plot. Her involvement changes the narrative threads, and affects what transpires in the main protagonist’s life. Kasumi also presents an opportunity to expound on the complexities of the original story, and it seems that the key character Goro Akechi gets further development.

P5R features a whole new Palace centered around Kasumi, an extra place to chill with Kichijoji, which offers a number of new hangout spots, and additional social events and cutscenes with the squad. There’s an extra semester that seems to give the game more room to breathe towards the end–the original wound down rather quickly and on a somewhat stressful note. So, seeing a glimpse of the New Year’s celebration in P5R and the more celebratory tone within, it’s heartwarming to know that there was more to the journey all along.

Kasumi Yoshizawa awakens her persona Cendrillon and fights alongside the Phantom Thieves.Gallery image 2Gallery image 3Gallery image 4Gallery image 5Gallery image 6Gallery image 7Gallery image 8Gallery image 9Gallery image 10

From a gameplay perspective, there’ll be more to explore within existing Palaces and refined combat mechanics to make things less arduous–like Joker’s hookshot to get to new areas or initiate ambushes for battles and additional persona evolutions to name a few. More importantly, P5R contains 20 new songs in the soundtrack, and if you’ve played the original release, you know how important music is–it’s the glue that held the flamboyant style, unapologetic message, and utter confidence all together, but it also set the tone for the story’s calmer, emotional moments.

It might be hard to square all this exciting additional content with the fact that it already took me 120+ hours to play through the original release. If you ask me, more is better–I just want a reason to go back to a place I think of as a kind of home, while discovering new things and learning more about characters I see as friends.

Here’s the thing about “escapism” in video games, though. I don’t necessarily want a game that solely makes me forget about the things that plague my world. Rather, I want to go somewhere that reflects my own world but with the power to exact change for the better, dismantling the abusive authority figures and structures that keep us down. Since finishing Persona 5, it’s something I think about every day. I can’t be a Phantom Thief, but I can be more diligent in enacting change around me. It’s a game that helped me establish a sense of place and empowered me to branch out back in 2017, and I look forward to renewing that feeling in 2020.

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